Charola is the Spanish word for a tray or, in this case, the pan in which the kibbeh is baked. It is something like a meat loaf made with lamb, with the outer layers forming a crust to hold the meat and pine nut filling. It is always served with jocoque, for which a thick, natural yogurt is a good substitute.
For the kibbeh:
- 1 cup fine bulgur (cracked wheat, available at health food stores and supermarkets)
- 1 medium onion, ground in a molcajete or pureed in a food processor
- 1 pound twice-ground lamb
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the meat filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (see NOTE, below)
- salt and pepper to taste
Soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to remove as much liquid was possible.
In a large bowl, mix the bulgur, onion, ground meat and salt. This should be done with the hands, kneading until smooth and well blended. Dip hands in coldwater from time to time to prevent the mixture from sticking. Cover and set aside while preparing the filling.
For the filling: Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add pine nuts and sauté until just beginning to turn golden brown. Be careful not to scorch the pine nuts.
Add onion and sautée until soft. Add meat and cook until it loses its pink color.
Add pomegranate molasses and salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Coat a large baking dish or large pie pan with olive oil. Press half the kibbeh into the pan to a depth of about ¼ inch thick. This can be done by forming a few small patties, pressing them into the pan, and “patching” to form one layer.
Spread meat filling over the kibbeh in the pan and top it with another layer of kibbeh. Cut the kibbeh into wedges before baking and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at 375ºF for 45 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Serve wedges of kibbeh with jocoque or yogurt on the side.
Makes about 8 large wedges, but may be cut into smaller wedges, which make good cocktail snacks.
NOTE: Pomegranate molasses are available on line and in many supermarkets. During September, when pomegranates are widely available in Mexican markets, we juice them and cook the juice with sugar to make our own pomegranate molasses. This could also be done with bottled pomegranate juice from the supermarket.